Making a Difference
2013 follows a remarkable year for Amazon Watch and our partners in 2012: Talisman Energy and Conoco Phillips announced they would cease oil operations and leave the Peruvian Amazon; Belo Monte dam construction was significantly delayed in Brazil; and we celebrated the landmark decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in favor of the Sarayaku community in Ecuador.
Advanced Indigenous Rights to Land and to Prior Consent
Ecuadorian government complies with Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling and pays reparation to Sarayaku community. On the one year anniversary of the historic victory for indigenous rights for the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, the Ecuadorian government met part of its obligation under IACHR ruling by paying reparation of $1.3 million to the community and agreeing to remove explosives buried in their territory during unauthorized oil exploration. While a public apology and a commitment to “no repetition” by the government is still pending, Sarayaku is poised to continue defending the region against new threats, including the 11th Round oil auction. Amazon Watch is honored to have accompanied Sarayaku in this struggle since 2002.
Provided strategic advocacy support to the Indigenous movement in Peru. Amazon Watch accompanied AIDESEP, Peru's national indigenous organization, in their advocacy focused on the Forest Investment Program where the Peruvian government seeks $50 million in international funding for its "Reducing Emissions thru Deforestation and Forest Degradation" (REDD) strategy. AIDESEP is urging that this forest climate mitigation program recognize and respect indigenous land rights. We supported AIDESEP in presenting an alternative proposal urging that funds instead be invested in indigenous land titling program for 20 million hectares of land claimed by indigenous peoples in the Amazon awaiting titling. The proposal has fueled debate in Peru over land rights and prior consultation. Amazon Watch also provided support for Escuela Amazonica to build capacity through indigenous leadership training.
Challenged Peruvian government's criminalization of protest. Amazon Watch provided strategic support and fundraising support for AIDESEP's ongoing legal defense of indigenous leaders who are facing spurious criminal charges stemming from the Bagua conflicts in June 2009. Many of the charges against AIDESP's leadership were dismissed in early 2013.
Deterred or Delayed Industrial Mega-Projects in Pristine Areas While Working to Implement Long-Term Protections
Thwarted Ecuador's 11th Round oil auction. Last fall we supported calls from our indigenous allies in defense of the southern Ecuadorian Amazon and launched a campaign to stop the 11th Oil Round, a government auction seeking to license an eight million acre swath of pristine rainforest. Amazon Watch led efforts to expose and pressure the Ecuadorian government internationally and to dissuade potential bidders at government sponsored events in Houston, Paris, Calgary, Beijing and online where we've gathered thousands of signatures directed at Ecuador's President Correa. The government responded by temporarily removing from the auction five contentious oil blocks that overlap the territories of Achuar and Kichwa of Sarayaku. Furthermore, a lack of interest from potential oil company bidders twice forced the government to extend the deadline from May to July and then to November.
Kept oil companies out of Achuar territory in Peru. Following Talisman Energy's departure from Peru, Amazon Watch has continued to support the Achuar people of the Pastaza River basin who are now threatened by oil development by state oil company Petroperu. We have been providing funding to inter-ethnic gatherings to help unite the Achuar and their neighboring tribes. In addition, we have begun developing strategies with the Achuar for the implementation of their "life plan"—the Achuar's holistic strategic plan for education, health, development and protection of their people and their rainforest territory.
Delayed Belo Monte dam. While construction continues on the massive Belo Monte dam in Brazil, local and indigenous resistance—including two occupations in May 2013 that halted construction for 17 days—has delayed construction and cost the consortium and government nearly $100 million and has raised the price tag of the project by $1 billion. All told, more than seven actions over the past year and 14 legal challenges filed in Brazilian courts have delayed the dam project by one year. With our support, these actions have united indigenous communities from different river basins in opposition to the Brazilian government's plan to build dozens of large dams in the Amazon. The real hope lies in a Supreme Court ruling on the government's failure to respect Indigenous Peoples right to prior consultation. Other pending cases charge that dam builders have failed to meet required social and environmental conditions. Amazon Watch has helped garner significant national and international media coverage on the Belo Monte dam and generated visibility and pressure on President Dilma Rousseff.
Promoted Clean Renewable Energy
Increased public debate about Brazil's energy future. Amazon Watch helped advance clean energy alternatives to destructive dirty energy projects in the Amazon. During the Rio+20 summit, we organized the Symposium on Clean Energy Solutions for Brazil's 21st Century where we convened Brazilian and international experts from the wind and solar industries, Brazilian government, academic researchers, and leaders from indigenous communities and environmental organizations. Together with International Rivers, we launched a second edition of the report on the challenges and opportunities facing Brazil's electricity sector and facilitated a working group of Brazilian organizations to promote a clean energy vision for Brazil.
Exposed dams as climate-unfriendly. Throughout the past year, we have leveraged the Belo Monte dam controversy to fuel debate about Brazil's unsustainable energy path among Brazilian public, scientists, media and policy makers. We focused attention on the methane emissions of large dams in tropical forests and highlighted scientific research on the subject to help debunk the myth propagated by the dam-building industry that such dams represent clean energy.
Promoted Corporate Accountability
Chevron CEO put on hot seat over Ecuador pollution case. Facing growing shareholder demand that Chevron settle the $19 billion Ecuador pollution lawsuit, Amazon Watch put Chevron CEO John Watson on the hot seat at the company's 2013 annual meeting in late May and called for his resignation. At the meeting, Watson was confronted by a representative from affected communities in Ecuador, Amazon Watch and major institutional investors about the company's toxic dumping in the Amazon. Amazon Watch helped support campaigns for two shareholder resolutions related to Ecuador. Shareholders worth $54 billion of Chevron stock voted for the Ecuador related proposal calling for the appointment of a board member with environmental expertise. The campaign garnered significant press coverage.
Beat Chevron's underhanded legal attacks. Chevron paid millions in legal fees and employed more than 60 law firms to delay justice for the rainforest communities in Ecuador. Amazon Watch was among many organizations and individuals subpoenaed by Chevron earlier this year in the company's attempt to discredit the case and label its critics as part of a “global conspiracy.” Chevron sought unprecedented discovery of our documents and to depose our staff. Earthrights International helped defend Amazon Watch from this blatantly political attack, and we were victorious before the Northern District Court of California. The court found that Amazon Watch was not involved in fraud or malfeasance, but rather expressing our guaranteed first amendment right to criticize Chevron's negligent operations in Ecuador.